What Is Online Marketing? Learn Tools, Tips, and Winning Tactics

It’s near impossible to run and grow most businesses without online marketing. 

In this article, you’ll learn what online marketing is, which channels to use, and how to get started. We’ll also run through some of the best online marketing tools to make your journey easier.

What Is Online Marketing?

Online marketing (also called digital marketing or internet marketing) is the practice of leveraging digital channels to spread a message about a brand, product, or service to a target audience.

Online marketing encompasses various methods and techniques to attract, engage, and convert potential customers. 

While traditional marketing methods like TV and direct mail have limited reach, online marketing can target local, regional, national, or global audiences.

By reaching buyers through channels where they already spend time—whether social media, search engines, or email—businesses of all sizes can create and maintain profitable relationships.

7 Online Marketing Channels You Need to Know

The most successful online marketing strategies use a well-balanced, carefully considered range of tactics.

Here are seven of the most popular online marketing channels to consider for your toolkit.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO aims to improve your website’s visibility on search engines like Google.

It involves choosing strategic keywords, crafting valuable content, optimizing technical website factors, and attracting backlinks, among other important factors. The goal is for pages on your website to appear high in search results for relevant keywords. 

For example, pet brands Chewy, The Foggy Dog, and Ruffwear have optimized their sites for terms related to dogs. You can see they compete for the term “dog collars” at the top of the search engine results page (SERP):

search engine results page (SERP) for "dog collars"

While there are many aspects involved, the crux of basic SEO is fulfilling users’ search needs by creating relevant, high-quality content and providing great user experiences.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing involves leveraging popular social networks to build brand identity and achieve marketing goals.

As part of your digital marketing strategy, you can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn to:

  • Post content that targets relevant audiences
  • Respond to comments, shares, and likes to manage and enhance your reputation
  • Launch new products or run promotions and sales
  • Provide customer service or respond to feedback from your customers

For example, U.K. wireless network operator GiffGaff used Twitter to promote a competition for a new product:

Twitter post by GiffGaff promoting Sony Xperia 10 1V

Social media marketing also includes social media advertising, where you can pay to have your content appear in front of targeted users.

3. Email Marketing

Email marketing is the process of sending marketing materials to consenting subscribers’ email addresses. 

For example, Magic Spoon sent this email to promote its cereal to subscribers: 

example of email by Magic Spoon promoting cereal

Email is among the most popular digital marketing channels due to its:

  • Accessibility. Billions of email users worldwide make for a vast, easily reachable audience.
  • Affordability. Email is free, and email marketing tools are generally affordable. You can send a huge volume of content for little to no cost.
  • Simplicity. Drag-and-drop email editors make campaigns quick to set up and implement.

The popularity of email marketing makes it a competitive field. You’ll need a thoughtful, data-driven strategy to stand out in consumers’ inboxes.

4. Online Advertising

Online advertising includes avenues like paid search, social media ads, display ads, and shopping ads. These techniques let you pay to put your business in front of highly targeted internet users on search engines, social media, websites, and similar platforms. 

Paid search ads appear on SERPs above organic results when users look for related terms. For example, search “online florist” on Google and you’ll get something like this:

Google SERP including paid ads for “online florist” search

Almost all the results in the image above are “sponsored.” In other words, they’re Google pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Businesses can also pay to advertise on social media sites. Major social media platforms all have advertising options, allowing you to target precise sections of their users.

5. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable, relevant content. The aim is to expand, engage, and retain a target audience of potential or existing customers.

For example, our own blog offers plenty of advice, how-tos, and tools. And it’s a form of content marketing. 

Semrush Blog page

A well-executed content marketing strategy will make your brand stand out to web users at all stages of the customer journey, from research to conversion and beyond.

6. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is when brands collaborate with individuals who have a sizable and engaged following online to promote their brands, products, and services online.

For example, U.S. rail operator Amtrak uses influencers to promote its Pacific Surfliner service on Instagram:

Instagram post by Amtrak featuring an influencer

Consider this tactic a way to borrow another person’s audience. You’ll typically need to pay and make it clear your content is sponsored—hence the inclusion of “#Ad” in the example above.

7. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based advertising method where businesses pay a commission on conversions to an affiliate.

You may see subtle notes about affiliate marketing on media sites, like this one on the tech review site Pocket-lint:

example of affiliate marketing by Pocket-lint

That means businesses (likely retailers or the manufacturers of the featured tech) have arranged to have Pocket-lint promote their products. 

Affiliate marketing is similar to influencer marketing in that a brand is relying on someone else’s audience. The difference is you only pay affiliates for successful sales, where influencers generally get paid for exposure.

Why Invest in Online Marketing for Your Business?

Digital marketing has many benefits over its traditional equivalents. Here are some of the most significant ones to consider.

Global Reach

DataReportal reports there are 5.16 billion internet users globally, meaning 64.4% of the world’s population is online. 

What’s more, Google reported that over 60% of all customer journeys begin online.

It’s virtually impossible to match that level of potential reach with traditional business marketing methods, which also tend to be more expensive. 

For example, a direct mailer could cost you $250 per 1,000 flyers. And there’s no perfectly reliable way of knowing whether you’re putting them in the right mailboxes.

In contrast, Shopify says the average cost per mille (CPM)—the cost per 1,000 impressions—for Facebook ads is just over $12. And Facebook allows precise targeting so you know exactly who you’re reaching.

Cost Efficiency

Online marketing is as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. 

Small budgets can lead to big results with careful planning and thoughtful targeting. 

Considering lack of budget is one of the top marketing challenges for small businesses, these potential cost savings are important.

infographic showing "small business marketing challenges in 2021" by Semrush

If you’re working on a small budget, consider:

  1. Investing in what’s already working
  2. Budgeting for SEO and being patient—lasting results can take time
  3. Prioritizing fixing your most critical marketing issues

It’s telling that most businesses maintain or increase their marketing spending, even if they start out small. For example, only 3% of respondents in our State of Content Marketing: 2023 Global Report said they planned to decrease their content budgets.


Many online marketing tools allow you to track and analyze performance. They also paint a much clearer picture than you’d get from counting the calls you receive after a TV or radio ad airs.

Data from online marketing shows what works and what doesn’t. So you can spend your budget more effectively with each campaign.

For example, you can use Google Search Console to track your organic CTR (click-through rate), or the percentage of users who click on your website from the SERP. As well as keyword rankings, organic clicks, and impressions. 

Google Search Console

You can set up your Google Analytics dashboard to track other metrics, such as traffic and bounce rates. And see how they impact your overall marketing goals.


Online marketing is particularly useful if your target audience is diverse. 

Rather than focus on one channel, you can use a range of different platforms that complement one another.

For example, coffee brand Nespresso uses LinkedIn to connect with small business owners:

example of LinkedIn post by "Nespresso Professional"

But the company targets consumers with blog content:

"Nespresso Professional" blog page

You can also repurpose content across platforms. 

Say you create a “how-to” blog post for the largest section of your audience but want to reach a smaller segment, too. You can use key takeaways to craft a shorter community post for Quora or a shareable social media graphic.

Targeting Accuracy

Online marketing lets you target incredibly specific audiences so you can deliver more personalized, relevant interactions.

That personalization can help you convert prospects.

According to one McKinsey study, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when that doesn’t happen.

Cole Haan uses customer data—like purchase histories and browsing patterns—to recommend relevant products in marketing emails:

marketing email recommending products by Cole Haan

Such specific targeting isn’t possible with traditional marketing platforms like TV ads and billboards. You’d need to take a broader approach, which is less relevant and therefore less likely to engage your ideal demographic.

Top Online Marketing Techniques for Beginners

With so many platforms and strategies to consider, online marketing can be daunting. Especially when you’re just starting. 

However, even with little experience, you can use plenty of techniques to build effective campaigns.

Set Your Goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

While profit will almost always be your end goal, the question of getting there is more complex. So start by determining how your marketing efforts will: 

  • Capture the attention of your ideal buyers 
  • Convert those people into paying customers
  • Keep them happy with your brand so they return and advocate for you

Then you’ll know how to proceed and which tactics to use.

For example, if you don’t have many leads to work on, you could focus on building brand awareness to get more potential customers into your marketing funnel. Shareable social media content will help here.

infographic showing "marketing funnel" by Semrush

Then consider what success looks like so you can see whether your efforts work. 

The “new users” metric in Google Analytics is a good brand awareness KPI—it shows the percentage of visitors who are viewing your content for the first time.

There are other KPIs you can set, but they’re all about learning how to track and measure your success.

Get to Know Your Audience 

Identify your target audience so you can start building a buyer persona.

At first, you’ll only have basic information. Existing sales and social media marketing analytics data should indicate your typical buyer’s:

  • Location or region
  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Budget

Then dig deeper by interviewing existing customers. Aim to uncover their:

  • Challenges
  • Role and responsibilities (if they represent a business)
  • Jobs to be done
  • Communication preferences
  • Interests
  • Social media habits

The more detail you add, the easier it’ll be to deliver personalized services and interactions for future customers.

Say you learn your target audience regularly uses instant messaging apps but only calls brands as a last resort. You could tailor your service by adding WhatsApp as a contact channel.

Or you might learn most of your ideal customers use Twitter and Instagram, but only some use Facebook. You could then build your social media marketing campaign around Twitter and Instagram primarily.

You can use Semrush’s Market Explorer to research and get data on your target audience. Here’s a snippet of the info you’ll find:

"Market Audience Summary" report in Market Explorer

Your audience and its preferences may evolve. Track this data over time so you can tailor your online marketing efforts accordingly.

Set Up a Blog

While you’ll eventually need a range of marketing channels to reach all corners of your target audience, starting a blog is a great first step.

You can use your blog to publish a range of content, including:

  • Insightful opinion pieces to boost industry authority
  • How-to guides to deliver actionable value
  • Data-driven reports and studies to educate your audience
  • Shareable infographics to build brand awareness

This content should help your organic search performance while nurturing and supporting leads at all stages of the buying journey. Apply SEO content best practices to drive more traffic to your website and create new sales opportunities.

Once you’ve built up some content, you can supplement your blog by repurposing articles for social media and promoting them with paid ads.

Focus on Easy SEO Wins

While you likely won’t dominate the Google rankings overnight, you can boost organic traffic and lay a sturdy SEO foundation with a few quick actions:

  • Highlight important pages with relevant internal links. Help visitors navigate your site by linking related content together. Avoid using vague anchor text like “click here” to enhance UX and crawlability.
  • Remove or merge duplicate content. If you have different pages with the same content, you may encounter SEO issues like keyword cannibalization. Use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to identify problematic pages.
  • Tighten site security. Set up HTTPS, install firewalls, and use multi-factor authentication in your CMS (content management system) and other website logins.
  • Improve your site speed. Site speed matters for SEO and UX. Run Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how your site currently stands.

These fundamentals will set a good foundation as you start building your wider SEO strategy and adding more content to your site.

Choose Your Social Media Platforms

Based on your research, choose the social media channel where your target audience spends the most time.

That will be the most direct part of your online marketing plan. It’s a place to:

  • Interact with potential and existing customers
  • Learn about your target audience and their changing behaviors
  • Promote content and share company updates

If you try to do all those things on multiple platforms at the same time, you risk losing track of conversations. You may also struggle to post regularly enough to keep followers engaged. 

If you’re undecided about which platform to start with, open business accounts on two, post similar content (for now), and see which gets the most engagement. Over time, you can refine your tactics to be more platform-specific.

There’s plenty of tech out there to help you plan, implement, and measure your online marketing campaigns.

Choosing the right tools can be tough, so we picked five of the best beginner-friendly digital marketing tools to start with:


Semrush is an online visibility management platform that gives you all the information you need to improve organic search performance, maximize content marketing returns, and grow your social media profiles.

Semrush is always expanding. Users have access to over 55 tools and reports to help measure results for content, social media, paid ads, and more.

Our growing database currently includes:

  • Over 24.9 billion keywords
  • 808 million domain profiles
  • 43 trillion backlinks
  • 500 terabytes of traffic and market insight data
overview of Semrush tools

Not convinced? Our platform helped one SEO agency increase its client’s mobile organic traffic by 460%.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is crucial for tracking your content marketing campaign performance. Its data will help you understand how people interact with your website.

Google Analytics page

You can use that behavioral information to bolster customer profiles, refine personalization efforts, and determine whether you’re reaching the right people with your content.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) helps you monitor your site’s search performance and technical SEO health.

Google Search Console (GSC) page

It reports on a range of factors, including links, sitemaps, indexing, and search appearance. Its insights will help you optimize your site to drive more organic traffic.


Since launching as a CRM (customer relationship management) platform in 2006, HubSpot has evolved to become a well-rounded marketing automation tool.

You can use its varied toolkit to manage and streamline your online marketing efforts and get bigger returns from your budget.

More specifically, you can:

  • Trigger automated emails
  • Add forms and other lead generation assets to your website
  • Track some aspects of marketing performance
  • Record and organize new lead data
HubSpot page

Users can also connect HubSpot to a range of other sales and marketing tools, including Semrush.


Canva is a design tool that helps marketers at any level create engaging visual content.

Use it to craft videos, presentations, logos, social media posts, and infographics efficiently.

Even the free version comes with:

  • Thousands of ready-made designs
  • Sharing features for collaboration, approvals, and feedback
  • Options for downloading, scheduling, and printing designs
Canva page

The content you create on Canva can enrich nearly any type of online marketing program. For example, consider publishing insightful infographics on your blog or sharing helpful explainer videos on Instagram.

Online Marketing Courses: 3 Places to Boost Your Skills

Online courses are fantastic for learning how to do online marketing well. You can learn from industry experts at a pace that suits you.

The right course depends on your current level of knowledge, what you want to get better at, and the time you have available.

Here are three of the best free online learning platforms to try first. 

Semrush Academy

Semrush Academy offers an expanding range of online courses covering all the main digital marketing disciplines, including SEO, paid search, content marketing, and social media.

Use the search bar at the top of the webpage to find what you want. Or scroll through the course catalog for inspiration.

Semrush Academy page

Experts lead all Semrush Academy courses and offer practical, step-by-step video guidance.

HubSpot Academy

HubSpot Academy is another free and flexible learning hub on how to do online marketing. 

It currently offers broad courses like a Digital Marketing Certification Course, as well as more specific programs like:

  • Excel for Marketers
  • How to Build a Paid Media Strategy
  • Measuring Brand Engagement & Emotional Connection
  • Learn Ecommerce Marketing and Sell More Online
HubSpot Academy page

HubSpot’s course content takes various forms to suit a range of learning styles. Along with classic video guides, there are ebooks, webinars, and quizzes.

Google Digital Garage

Google offers digital marketing-specific courses in its Digital Garage hub. 

Here, you’ll find a wide range of topics useful to most marketers and small business owners.

Google Digital Garage page

While Google created a lot of its own Digital Garage content, you’ll also find courses from established institutions like:

  • Monash University
  • FutureLearn
  • University of Virginia
  • The Open University

You can create a new account or sign in with your existing Google account, although the platform will ask for a few extra details before you start a course.

Online Marketing Is an Ongoing Process

Even the best marketers don’t ever fully master online marketing. 

It’s a process of learning and refinement that starts with the fundamentals in this article and goes incredibly deep.

You can continue learning the art of content marketing with our content planning guide, explore the basics and best practices of technical SEO, or get familiar with social media management.

And if you’re ready to put some of your online marketing knowledge into practice, sign up for a free Semrush account:

Vous pouvez lire l’article original (en Anglais) sur https://www.semrush.com/blog/online-marketing

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